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On Wednesday, Facebook announced it’s roll out of Hashtags. Like on other social media platforms (Twitter, most notably), this will allow users to include an interactive hashtagged phrase in their posts.Clicking on the hashtag will lead users to a page featuring other content about that phrase. There are implications for brands abound so we’ve gathered our thoughts and highlighted a few actions you should take right now to stay ahead of the curve.
When we covered this possibility in March as news of Facebook’s hashtag development surfaced, one of key points was how hashtags would create anchors within conversations. While we do not know if the new feature will pull content beyond posts, we strongly recommend brands begin to test hashtags in their content. As the hashtag feature is activated for more users, any tagged content will become more visible. In this case, testing hashtagged content now will allow the early adopters among fans to provide feedback before the feature becomes more widely available.
Brands do not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel here, and employing Facebook’s product in concert with a current hashtag approach should be sufficient for now.
We do not yet know if hashtag phrases in comments or replies by users or brands will be visible. However, the visibility of interactive hashtags within posts will have an agenda-setting effect for conversations, as we know it does on Twitter. If users are allowed to see the top “trending” hashtags, the conversation may shift for brands – even within threads about unrelated topics. We know this occurs frequently with events in the news cycle, and now brands have an opportunity to be nimble in order to gain earned relevance on Facebook as well.
Whatever you do, remember: Facebook does not have the same “feed effect” as Twitter. If you do not use this new tool in an honest, authentic, and respectful way, your fans will let you know on your wall.
Facebook representatives have stressed the impact hashtags and other upcoming products will have to serve brands’ overall business objectives (read: paid, paid, paid). Privacy settings will affect overall reach, sure, but Facebook remains the top social networking site in the world. Until now, many brands have used Facebook as a content hub to build a community, while using Twitter as a content mine to glean insights and participate in individual conversations.
Brands will not only be able to promote content within Facebook but will also be able to pull and amplify hashtags from other places. An email from Facebook to Adweek said: “Any hashtags that you use on other platforms that are connected to your Facebook page will be automatically clickable and searchable on Facebook.”
While hashtags are not available to advertisers right now, Facebook representatives confirmed to Mashable the site will give preference to content containing hashtags. It’s important to weigh the benefit of early adoption for your brand against the time spent managing your community’s reaction about the product. But as users are already filling their posts with hashtags, brands won’t stick out too much by adding them now.
If you have above-the-line advertising featuring a hashtag, most people will either open Twitter or search Google. All roads end at Twitter. Most posts on Facebook are private, so this affects the population of hashtagged posts available. Users have the option on Twitter to have private account as well, but those accounts comprise only a small percentage overall. When searching for a hashtagged phrase on Facebook, a user will land on a page featuring curated conversations (We would say “topic,” but unless Facebook finds a way to personalize results, you will find that’s not necessarily the case).
We will know more about the impact Facebook hashtags have outside of the platform soon. For now, begin to explore ways it may affect search behavior and plan ahead.
As Facebook rolls out hashtag functionality to more users, your brand should have a strategy to make the most out of the functionality. If you work on a brand using Twitter, you have most likely used hashtags in some way – whether ad hoc for an event or as part of an ongoing campaign. Starting now, Facebook hashtags should be part of the mix.
Our team at Social@Ogilvy will provide a more in-depth POV in the coming weeks. Please let us know your thoughts about Facebook’s newest development below.